When will Cobourg’s web site get fixed?

I’m sure I heard Mayor Lucas Cleveland comment a while back that the Town’s web site badly needed fixing but so far there’s no sign of anything being done. Parts of it are OK (escribe and engagecobourg) but they are quite separate web sites.  Navigation is poor but that’s supposed to be remedied by a search function – except that this has not worked for some months.  Part of the problem is that there are many missing items and dead links but the idea is that non-technical staff can do the work of keeping them up to date.  What’s needed is a dedicated web site person – that’s in addition to a web site that works properly.  And don’t give me the nonsense that web sites are not needed since we have social media.

Why web sites?

For a Town like Cobourg – or any Government body – a web site is a repository of documents like by-laws, budgets, plans, contact information.  It can also be a place for news and public notices plus somewhere to pay fines, buy dog licences etc.  None of these belong on Facebook or Instagram.

So why are escribe and engagecobourg OK?  It’s because they are separate web sites that were designed properly.

For the record, Cobourg’s web site was designed by esolutionsgroup, now owned by GHD – they have re-branded esolutions as GHD Digital.

Light at the end of the tunnel

There’s $15,000 in the operations budget for web site maintenance and $177,000 in the capital budget – perhaps there is an RFP coming out soon?  I’d suggest we aim for a new vendor.


In the meantime, you can get some – but nowhere near all – of the Town’s info on these sites:

These are my sites and they have very few (if any) dead links.

It’s not clear why other sites by esolutions are in better shape – here are some of their nearby sites:

This looks like a monopoly – time for some competition.

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Cobourg taxpayer
1 May 2023 6:59 pm

As I said in the Engage Cobourg survey, my main source of information is John Draper’s blog. I have tried to use the town website to find information and when it doesn’t work, as is usually the case, I fire off an email to all of council and Brent Larmer and someone answers and gives me the information required.

Lemon cake
30 April 2023 4:44 pm

It’s not 1998 anymore – there’s no software, no expensive web designer – like most websites nowadays, the site is probably built using WordPress which is easy to update and maintain – hire a freelancer to fix the links and maybe retitle some of the pages on the menu so they’re easier to navigate. Boom, done.

30 April 2023 11:52 am

Scrap it, start over – not with GHD. Attempts to integrate and or massage new software with the old is reckless and irresponsible (person power, cost).

Give me a break
30 April 2023 9:33 am

Before spending a lot of our taxpayer’s money ….. complete user (that would be us) requirements and keep it simple, don’t boil the ocean ….. currently too busy looking and difficult to navigate ….. what 3-5 things that we need on the site? ….. also complete useability tests with a few residents before implementing …… for the rest just call the town

30 April 2023 9:15 am

There are a lot of problems with WIFI in this town
many small business will tell you this . But No one listens
Zoom meetings are hard to stay connected
and the same goes for Town Council meetings you get dropped
several times throughout . Where I am we have Fiber through out the homes
but the speeds are so slow and disrupted you can’t even watch Netflix
Why ?? Bell tells us — although we might have Fiber in our homes and pay for Fiber
there is still a lot of Copper through out the Town .
As far as the Towns Web site goes well lets just say every Mayor has taken a Kick at it .
may be its time for a New IT & Web design Team New Broom concept
Its not Rocket science any more

Reply to  Sandpiper
30 April 2023 11:08 am

We have Cogeco, and I have never experienced the poor connections you have illustrated. And we probably live less than a block from each other.

Ken Strauss
Reply to  Gerald
30 April 2023 1:25 pm

Bell FIBE works great here. Sandpiper, all WiFi issues are completely fixable by the business/home owner. I don’t understand why you even mention WiFi.

Last edited 1 month ago by Ken Strauss
Reply to  Sandpiper
30 April 2023 5:24 pm

Your WiFi problems have nothing to do with the functionality or lack thereof of the town website. And if I were you, I’d detach from Bell’s corporate teat — they’re a terrible organization and part of the oligolopy mentality that controls far too much commerce in Canada.

Go to an indie like TekSavvy. Great service at better price.

Ken Strauss
Reply to  Bob
30 April 2023 8:41 pm

TekSavvy? They only offer a 60 Mbps cable TV based service in Cobourg (Cogeco reseller?). Their fibre is only available in the Chatham area.

Reply to  Ken Strauss
30 April 2023 10:38 pm

I’m on TekSavvy right now; have been since I moved here. Will never go back to Bell or Rogers unless forced by necessity.

Lemon cake
30 April 2023 8:42 am

I dunno… it doesn’t seem that bad to me. Granted, I browse it on my phone and I’m looking for super basic things like garbage collection times and parking etc. I mostly use social media and I think they could post a bit more frequently on Insta etc. I guess my question is now much do we as a town want to spend and exactly what is it we want the site to do?

Jennifer Darrell
30 April 2023 8:33 am

I know I’m in the minority (but not alone) in not using social media and the only way I get news of what’s going on @ the Town is John’s blog – thank heavens for all the work, time and expertise he devotes to it and reporting on Council meetings.
I do not find the web site “non-techie user” friendly, have great difficulty getting onto Council meetings through the escribe link and, when I do, I can’t hear the dialogue despite having the volume on my lap top on100% – I have complained to the Town about the quality of transmission to no avail. With no daily newspaper design and regular maintenance of the web site should be a top priority for the Town.

30 April 2023 8:18 am

There is total agreement about the nonsense statement regarding the association or the focus on social media. Businesses and Corporations, since its inception, have deteriorated rather than improved.

Ken Strauss
29 April 2023 1:59 pm

I think that you are being overly generous in your assessment of eScribe! For example:

There is almost no material — bylaws, Council minutes, reports, etc — from prior to 2020. Material including Council minutes and bylaws back to 1970 was on Civic Web and readily searchable.The eScribe search capability is almost useless. Insofar as I know one cannot search using approximate match, cannot search by date, cannot search for documents containing specified words in close proximity, cannot search for documents not containing specified words, etc, etc. All of these capabilities were available in Civic Web.One can watch but not easily download video of previous meetings.
There is no excuse for broken links. There are dozens of both free and very low cost (<$100) programs to automatically check all links on a website. Why are these programs not run at least weekly and the errors fixed?

Last edited 1 month ago by Ken Strauss
Reply to  Ken Strauss
29 April 2023 5:07 pm

Never mind the complaints about the system as we have it now is the material contained in Civicweb still available or is it in the ‘ether’?

The problem is, as every web designer knows, there are no industry standards for web design and taking over somebody else’s design is an absolute nightmare. So good luck to anybody who wants this job, especially if the RFP specifies the incorporation of historical material.

Last edited 1 month ago by ben
Reply to  ben
29 April 2023 5:37 pm

Ken S. & Ben,

Hopefully the old civic web data still exists.
Assuming the Town has custody of the data (a big if) the challenge will be to make it accessible in eScirbe. The data files themselves shouldn’t be a problem. They are mainly PDFs, and other standard document files along with some video, pictures and scanned documents. The challenge will be organizing them.

Usually when an organization makes a major software/platform change, a migration plan is made to “move” the data to the new system. This is done before the new system is brought online. That it didn’t happen in the Town’s case indicates a major project management failure.

Hopefully there is a remedy and it can be implemented soon.

To date, lots of talk and little action.

Ken Strauss
Reply to  John Draper
29 April 2023 7:04 pm

John, we are grateful for your work! However, expecting that engaged residents rather than the town will make bylaws available to everyone is completely unacceptable.